LOUISVILLE CARDINALS (6-1, 3-1) vs. DUKE BLUE DEVILS (5-2, 2-1)
Game Time: 3:30 p.m.
Location: L&N Stadium: Louisville, Ky.
Announcers: Sean McDonough (play-by-play), Greg McElroy (analyst) and Molly McGrath (sideline reporter)
Favorite: Louisville by 6
All-Time Series: Louisville leads, 3-0
Last Meeting: Louisville won 62-22 on Nov. 18, 2021 in Durham
Louisville Depth Chart:
Week 9 Top 10 Games— BraveVol ✞ (@brave_vol) October 28, 2023
20. Duke (5-2) @ 18. Louisville (6-1)
College Football: Week 9 Picks pic.twitter.com/GowtiDyC8r— Big Game Boomer (@BigGameBoomer) October 27, 2023
Excitement Level: 8.4
This one is a big deal. Just the seventh ever meeting between two top 25 teams at L&N Stadium, likely an ACC tournament elimination game, and huge overall implications for the direction of two (at the moment) very promising seasons.
Again, this one is a big deal.
Game Attire: Red script Louisville hoodie
Finally switching it up.
Pregame Meal: Suburban Fish Fry fish sandwiches
Best fish in the city. Haven’t made it out there yet this fall. Need to change that.
Bold Prediction: Louisville doesn’t turn the ball over
We were so close to three in a row last week. Let’s get back on track.
Jeff Brohm Tick Play Alert Level: Pink Flamingo (high)
Big game. Coming off a bye week. We’re getting one.
Predicted Star of the Game: Maurice Turner
Jawhar Jordan plays and plays well, but Maurice Turner’s full-fledged star turn starts today.
Duke football is one of the best stories in college football this year with Mike Elko getting the program back on track in his second season. Duke has never been a football school but they have been able to be relevant in the ACC over the last decade or so. Elko took over a program that had bottomed out but in year two he already has one of the biggest upsets in school history and his two losses have come against highly ranked teams.
Elko’s defense is his signature but he was lucky to take over a team with an exceptional quarterback in Riley Leonard. Leonard played against Louisville in their blowout win against Duke in 2021 but his performance went unnoticed at the time. He went 13-13 for 99 yards while running for 70 yards and a touchdown. This all came with the game in hand but it was obvious that Leonard had real talent.
The Duke signal-caller is the complete package as a prospect. He has great size at 6-4/212. He can throw the deep ball well while also showing the ability to make intermediate throws into tight windows. The best part of his game is his athleticism. He can outrun a defense when he gets into space and he can also avoid the rush really well while keeping his eyes down the field to make throws. UofL will have to put pressure on him while also containing him as a runner.
Leonard has been injured as of late with an ankle sprain but he did start against FSU. After re-injuring his ankle, Henry Belin came in to relieve him. Belin has had a few good moments this season but it is obvious that he has a lot of room to grow as a passer. Duke didn’t shy away from letting him drop back and let it rip.
I’ve been impressed with Duke’s running game and their two-headed running back system. Jordan Waters and Jaquez Moore essentially split carries in the backfield and their different styles complement each other very well. Waters is a big back who can break a big run in space but is best at getting chunk yards and fighting for yardage. Moore is a burner who can run away from people and create big plays out of nothing. Louisville will have to bring the run defense from the Notre Dame game to slow them down.
The Duke receivers are similar to the running backs as there are two main targets for the quarterbacks and they both have the ability to create big plays. Jalon Calhoun is a veteran pass catcher for Duke who has improved each year with the program. He is the deep threat for this offense averaging 15 yards per catch on the season.
Jordan Moore is more of a possession receiver with very good quickness and route-running ability. Moore is a former quarterback who was beaten out by Leonard for the starting job. The fact that he is a former quarterback shows up with his play at receiver. He runs really good routes with great timing on his breaks which leads to him being open a lot.
Duke’s offensive line has been very good this season. The veteran group has only allowed five sacks on the year and Duke has been able to pass the ball pretty well this year because of the time the line has provided the quarterbacks. I also think they are a big part of the success of the run game as the backs have had plenty of opportunities to get to the second level of the defense without being touched. This will be another test for the Louisville defensive line.
Mike Elko made a name for himself by fielding stingy defenses that created havoc for offenses. That hasn’t changed as he’s moved into a head coaching role as Duke has one of the top defenses in the country this season. Elko’s defense has given offenses fits and Duke will look to do the same against a Louisville offense that struggled in their last outing.
Duke’s defense is strong up front with a litany of veteran defensive linemen. DeWayne Carter is the most accomplished player in the group. Carter is an active defensive tackle who has done well playing the run and getting after the passer over his career. Carter and Aneas Peebles have done a good job this year to get penetration and make plays in the backfield.
The front for Duke plays relentlessly in pass-rushing situations but they are also very good at executing the calls. They do a lot of stunts and loops and some of those are run calls to free up a lineman to fill a gap. R.J. Oben and Anthony Nelson have both had plays this year that have stood out to me because of how they pursue the ball. Oben has also improved as a pass rusher on the edge. Pitt had four sacks two weeks ago with pressure coming from everywhere. UofL can’t let that happen again this weekend.
Duke’s linebackers are fairly unremarkable but they get the job done. They rack up tackles and make plays in the open field. They don’t make a lot of havoc plays but that’s not really what their role is in this defense. The defensive line is tasked with blowing things up and letting these guys clean up. While they don’t make a lot of highlight plays, they execute their role very well.
Duke’s secondary has made a drastic improvement since Malik Cunningham ran through them like they were standing still a few years ago. Two starters remain in Jeremiah Lewis and Jaylen Stinson but they’ve also added some talent in Al Blades Jr. from Miami and Myles Jones from Texas A&M. The upgraded talent and scheme has led to a secondary group that is one of the stingiest in the country.
Blades and Jones team up with Chandler Rivers to make up a very good corner group. Rivers had a pick-six last weekend off of a tipped pass and Blades and Jones are big corners who can contest any pass thrown their way. The Duke defense hasn’t given up a play of 40 or more yards this season and this group gets the majority of the credit for that.
Stinson is a very undersized safety but he is on his way to another season as one of the top tacklers on the team and one of the top tacklers in the ACC from the safety position. Lewis is no slouch either as he is averaging five tackles per game. I hyped up Notre Dame’s safeties before that game and they were a non-factor. If Jeff Brohm can do the same with his game plan this weekend, UofL will have a major advantage in the game.
—Saturday will be Homecoming for Louisville. The Cardinals are 60-36 all-time in Homecoming games and have won five in a row.
—Louisville has won 26 of its last 31 Homecoming games and is 10-2 all-time in Homecoming games against ACC opponents.
—Louisville has won eight consecutive home games, tied for the seventh-longest streak in the country.
—The Cards haven’t won nine consecutive home games since a nine-game streak that spanned from the 2015 to the 2016 season.
—Louisville is 45-8 all-time and 1-0 this season in home games when playing as a team ranked in the AP top 25 poll.
—The Cards are 4-2 all-time at L&N Stadium and 1-0 this season in home games where both teams are ranked in the AP top 25 poll. Louisville is No. 18 in this week’s AP poll. Duke is No. 20.
—As a head coach, Jeff Brohm is 6-4 all-time in games immediately following a bye week.
—Duke is 1-2 so far this year against top 25 opponents.
—Duke ranks in the top half of the ACC in both scoring offense (29.57 ppg; 7th) and defense (13.86 ppg; 1st). They are the only ACC school averaging 25.0 points per game and allowing less than 15.0 points per outing.
—Louisville is a 6-point favorite in this game according to DraftKings Sportsbook. It’s the seventh time in eight games that the Cardinals have been favored.
—Louisville is 8-0 against the spread in its last eight home games.
—Louisville is 9-14 all-time in games that pair two top 25 teams
—Under head coach Mike Elko, Duke has won the turnover battle in 12 of its 20 games and has scored 129 points off those turnovers (17 touchdowns, three field goals and one two-point conversion).
—Louisville has outscored its opponents 48-7 in the first quarter so far this season. A Pitt touchdown two weeks ago marked the first opening quarter points surrendered by the Cardinals since their regular season finale last season.
—Louisville has held each of its last three opponents to less than 100 yards rushing.
—Louisville had won 30 games in a row when holding teams to less than 300 yards of offense before its loss at Pittsburgh. The Panthers managed just 288 yards of offense but still won, 38-21.
—Duke head coach Mike Elko is 14-6 (.700) through the first 20 games of his tenure with the Blue Devils, marking the second-best 20-game start to a head coaching stint in school history. Additionally, Elko’s record through 20 games is the best among current ACC coaches to open their respective tenures at their current institutions.
—Louisville is 19-63-1 all-time against ranked opponents.
—Louisville is 215-95-5 all-time during the month of October.
—Louisville is looking to start a season 7-1 for the first time since 2016.
—Louisville and Duke were supposed to play three games between 2007-09, but the Blue Devils opted out of the series and then avoided paying any cancelation fees to U of L by successfully arguing in court that they had the worst college football program in the world.
—Jeff Brohm is 21-15 all-time as a head coach in games immediately following a loss.
—Louisville has gone over 400 yards of offense in all three of its home games this season, and is averaging 534.0 yards of total offense per game at home.
—Since 2022, Duke has scored on its first possession in 11 games, including nine for a touchdown ... as a defense, the Blue Devils have only allowed eight opponents to score on their opening possession.
—The Blue Devils are 5-1 this season and 13-1 overall under Elko when leading after the third quarter. Additionally, in its seven games of 2023, Duke is outscoring its opponents 99-46 in the second half, including allowing just three points in the third quarter.
—This will be Duke head coach Mike Elko’s first game against Louisville and Louisville head coach Jeff Brohm’s first game against Duke.
—Elko was the defensive coordinator at Wake Forest from 2014-16 where he went 0-3 in three games against U of L.
—Louisville is 6-2 all-time in games played on Oct. 28, with its most recent appearance on the date being a 42-32 loss to Wake Forest in 2017.
—Duke averages 198.3 yards per game on the ground at an efficient clip of 5.6 per carry. Louisville sits at 14th in the FBS in terms of yards allowed per game on the ground at just 97.1.
—The Duke defense is allowing just 13.86 points per game, the fifth-best mark in the country.
—Duke is 11-1 under Mike Elko and 4-1 this season when scoring first.
—Louisville is 80-29 all-time and 1-1 this season when playing as a team ranked in the AP Top 25 poll.
—Louisville is 40-38 all-time in ACC games.
—Louisville is looking for back-to-back wins over top 25 opponents for the first time since beating No. 25 West Virginia in 2011 and then No. 4 Florida in the 2013 Sugar Bowl.
—Louisville is 54-49-1 all-time coming off bye weeks.
—Since 2019, Louisville is 23-4 when winning the turnover battle, and just 3-19 when losing it. The Cardinals’ only loss this season came in the only game where they lost the turnover battle.
—“I think our guys were as disappointed as all of us in the loss, and I’m pretty sure it hurt them just as much, which it should. I think they care, so the issue is getting refocused and dialed back in. We have to realize that we’re playing some good football teams and that these games mean a lot each and every week. While we got off to a good start, it means nothing. You’re judged on how you do at the end of the year.” —Jeff Brohm
—“Losing, that’s a feeling that we don’t like. It puts a bad taste in our mouth. So we just took that L and moved on from it. Hopefully, we’ll end this week with a W.” —Jamari Thrash
—“The beauty of it is they have time that we don’t have. That’s what the luxury of coming off of a bye week gives them. They have extra time to look at us, self-scout themselves and kind of go through it all. They’ve had a more thorough breakdown of us, they’ve looked at everything we’ve done. So, as best you can, you try to predict what the results of all that will become. At the end of the day, you’ve just got to be ready to adjust on the fly come Saturday and that’s just the nature of this.” —Duke head coach Mike Elko
—“We got to go back and study a lot of fundamental things. Each coach would go on the field for those workouts, and we had some technique things to really concentrate and focus on. We spent both days working on certain things that we think that we need to be able to execute to move forward. I think it was really good for us, in regards to our fundamentals and techniques.” —Garrick McGee
—“They’re stout on defense. They play a solid brand of physical football that keeps the ball in front of them. They do some really good things up front in running games and stunts and creating some havoc for your offensive line, and they they’ve just been very good. I think until the Florida State game, you could hardly score any points on them, and they kept that game extremely close to the very end.”
—“I think [Jordan] is one of the more talented running backs in this league, if not the most talented. Certainly the most explosive from a speed standpoint, in a making [defenders] miss standpoint that we’ve seen to this point.” —Duke head coach Mike Elko
—“You can fall into a lull when you start 6-0. You forget how you got there — it wasn’t easy, it was a struggle. If we don’t have that same hunger (against Duke) we started the season with, we’re gonna get knocked on our ass.” —Jeff Brohm
—“I think we put ourselves in a good position now that, if we can find ways to improve and finish strong, then maybe good things happen at the end. But for us, we can just put all our focus on Duke, and making sure we’re getting prepared to play, because we’re going to need to. You figure out a way to come out with a win, then you get closer to your goals.” —Jeff Brohm
Card Chronicle Prediction: Louisville 30, Duke 24
Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.